Sunday, July 3, 2011

It's the little things

Two full days in a Detroit heat wave got me to thinking about how much I love my kids for teaching me about the little things.

Steve and his brother have been working on my mother-in-law's yard in 98degree temps. They work side by side, sometimes chatting about nothing. Steve is very close to his siblings, even though we live so far way. He is the youngest of seven children. Their mom and dad gave them all equal love and support. Cousins from the Raggio(M-I-L) side are plentiful and keep family circles together at more than weddings and funerals. I've met them all at some point, and when we see each other, it only takes a few general catch up bits of conversation until we talk about property in Italy, raising kids, and shared amazement at how our parents did it.

Steve's parents didn't take them to Disney World. But they each got sent to Italy for an extended stay on the property. Steve tells great stories of traveling in Europe after college. They never get old. He shares these stories with cousins, who then try to best his stories.

Whenever we come to Detroit, there is always a family meal gathering. 20 relatives today; a rather small group compared to Christmas. The food simply spectacular. We all pitch in, so there is no guilt to preparing, eating or cleaning up. It's as if we all try to be the most generous and happy. Even though Rose (that's my mother-in-law, and she deserves to be named) is too far gone to engage, we dutifully join hands to pray before we eat. My kids now know the prayers, so they chime in loudly. The rest of the family does this more out of respect for Rose than their own devotion. It starts with, "bless us, oh lord, for these, thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord. Amen." (Catholics love commas) Then someone starts an "Our Father." Then another wants to start a "Hail Mary" but is shut down by one speech giver who intercedes a note of gratitude for our being together, and "thanks to the chefs."

The children are dying to eat, and sneak a pickle or a chip while the grown ups argue over how long we pray. This really only lasts 2 minutes, but it's exactly what my dog feels when I make him hold position before gobbling up the left over scrambled eggs in his bowl set on the floor. I like to tease a drop of drool out of him before commanding, "go." I guess that's what we do to each other-it's always with a wink.

It's these gatherings that are so important for our kids. They were born away from the family nexus-but there's something genetic about wanting to play with their cousins. They tolerate 10-12 hour drives just for an epic water ballon battle and some Red Faygo pop.

There's a quote from JRR Tolkein's "The Lord of the Rings" when describing the life of Hobbits: "To live a simple life is no small thing."

Watching my kids play with their cousins and talk to the grown-ups presents this lesson every visit. Family comes first with us. As it should be.

#17 of 90in90 for #LUBlogTribe

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